13.1 Did The Earth Move For You?
Miyazaki, Japan: 23 July 2069
The sign said 'Cognizant Conference – this way' in English. It also said it in Japanese, Russian, Spanish and several other languages that Emily could only guess at. It was accompanied by the familiar symbol consisting of three concentric red circles. She followed the 'this way' towards the conference room. At its entrance she held her breath as her invitation card was scanned. A reassuring blip on the scanner followed and she was ushered in.
She let out her breath as she entered and let a brief smile play across her lips. While she was genuinely on Cognizant's staff, her invitation was far from official. Her minor telepathic abilities had gained her a foothold in this intriguing company five years previously. But it was her own discovery two years later that she could tap into almost any computer system using the power of her mind alone that had generated the invitation that she now placed back inside her shoulder bag. The few people that knew of her newfound abilities had much less of an idea of how far it had developed.
Inside the conference room she noted how sparsely it was occupied by attendees. This afforded her an excellent view out across the Pacific even before she was anywhere near the windows. Despite that, she moved toward the view, pausing only to take a proffered glass of bubbly, sipping it absent mindedly whilst watching the breakers silently sliding up the beach several hundred feet away. She imagined she was looking straight across the ocean towards Seattle and, having lived away for nearly three years, was looking forward to returning home. To her right, the panorama from the Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort took in the city of Miyazaki or, at least, its harbour, which was all she could see at that moment. The city itself was hidden from her by the bulk of the hotel itself.
She turned her back to the scenery and started people watching. The room held about fifty of multiple nationalities. None of them were familiar to her though she could identify where most were from by the style of their dress. Then an old man strode into the conference room with an energy that belied his advancing years. Professor Rayburn was the main speaker here today. With his arrival the conference came to order and she, along with the others, sought a seat at one of the informally laid out tables.
A few more stragglers arrived and some sat at the larger table at one end, to which Rayburn had gravitated. At some hidden signal the hotel staff, who had been serving drinks and a small buffet, departed to leave the delegates to themselves. As the door closed one of those at Rayburn's table stood to introduce the proceedings. Although she had worked in the office in Miyazaki for over a year she didn't recognise this Japanese man. He referred to his notes for a moment then, facing the small gathering and without opening his mouth, started broadcasting. His voice hit her strongly using perfect English. Ah, she thought, a translator – she had heard of those with the ability to transmit to several people simultaneously using multiple languages.
He outlined the more recent work within Cognizant, picking out some of those present, who nodded at the mention of their efforts. Due to the speed at which it was transmitted, the silent speech lasted less than three minutes. Then he opened his mouth and verbally announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, Professor Rayburn," before sitting down.
The Professor got to his feet. A smile spread across his lips and a hand was raised in acknowledgement of the mild applause. As it died down he picked up a sheet of paper from the table, glanced down at it for a couple of seconds and opened his mouth to speak.
Then all hell broke loose.
The Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort swayed on its foundations and, along with everyone else, Emily fell to the floor. Alarm bells went off as the shaking became worse. There were gasps and screams, and Emily muttered, "Earthquake," while many of those around her shouted the same in English and other languages. The rumbling that filled the building could be felt far more than it could be heard, and the hearing was bad enough. One of the windows at the far corner of the conference room shattered and, seconds later, one beside it followed suit. Coupled with the dancing building, the glass flung itself in all directions and people crawled towards the centre of the room to get away. That is, except for the Professor, who regained his feet and then rose slightly further so that the swaying could no longer affect him. Emily watched, open mouthed, as he faced the constantly shattering glass, arms outspread. What was he going to do? She found out a second or two later when something caressed her, a force that tugged between her ears. She was being linked into something against her will. For a moment she resisted, but it was persuasive and she let herself fall into the coercion.
The rest of the windows gave way as one and the glass showered into the room. However, an invisible barrier halted its progress so that the shards dropped harmlessly to the floor, missing the occupants.
"Right," Rayburn shouted both verbally and mentally. "Looks like the conference is going to have to be postponed." Then he added, "Sorry about this, but there's no time to train you individually. Let – me – in!"
Emily felt Rayburn's coercion pull her further into the concert via an intense melody that infused her whole body. She gave herself willingly and added her underdeveloped abilities to help stabilise the very ground beneath them. For several minutes they battled the effects of the earthquake until it died away. But, she learned more in those minutes than she had in all her twenty-four years on the planet. She took all the experience the Professor had forced upon her and did her best to remember it.
Rayburn lowered himself to the floor and issued the command to provide assistance throughout the building. Emily struggled upright on legs that felt like jelly. No one in the conference room appeared to be injured so, along with others, she made herself useful over the next twenty minutes attending to the many who were less lucky.
While she was helping to bandage the arm of a small boy who had been too close to a window when the quake struck, another urgent mental call arrived. To the surprise of the boy's parents, she rushed away and back up to the conference room without explanation. Within a minute all the delegates were there, along with a few new faces who had also heard the call and were unable to resist its urgency.
Rayburn was staring out towards the Pacific. Emily was puzzled – the shore was now a lot further away than it had been. However, she then noticed the darker line on the horizon and someone gasped before crying, "Tsunami."
Her breath caught in her throat and she had to resist the urge to run.
"No panic," Rayburn demanded, seemingly just at her. "It's too late to run. It will be here in a few minutes. A full mental rapport – we have no choice if we are to survive this."
Emily felt a new song enter her mind. It was compelling, enticing and she had neither the urge nor the ability to pull away. In her head she heard Rayburn assign the front troops, in a second he had invaded her consciousness and determined the most fitting role for her. He unlocked in her the latent ability to enforce the coercion itself. "Pull in as many as you can and add them to the diversion force," he told her. Rayburn wasn't talking to just her, though, and many others responded simultaneously.
The song grew to encompass everything and she found a route within it that allowed her to extend her essence, as if she was no longer in her own body. She ranged first through the hotel, touching the scared minds of those cowering within. In some of them she could detect the abilities required and she added them to the link before moving onto the next. What would have been uncomprehendingly impossible an hour ago, she now did without effort. In seconds she had drawn in thirty or more while, around her, others with similar abilities were doing the same. Finding further strength, she moved outside the hotel and towards the city, seeking to bring thousands into the mesh of minds focussed on and controlled by Professor Rayburn.
A few days later the newspapers were trying to find explanations for how a tidal wave that had threatened to subsume an entire city had suddenly diverted southwards and away from the Japanese islands. Not that Japan had escaped lightly – thousands had died and millions had been made homeless in the initial earthquake but, in Miyazaki, they were many who were aware that it could have been far worse.
Emily left Japan several weeks later once flights had resumed and caught up with the backlog. She felt twenty years older and far removed from the naive person who had arrived on these islands only two years before.
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